Monday, 20 July 2009 08:24

8MP camera the heart of new LG Viewty Smart

Blending the “S-Class User Interface” seen on the LG Arena with an 8 megapixel camera, LG has launched the successor to the original Viewty, but is the Viewty Smart a beauty?

At 12.4mm thick (or thin, depending on your point of view), LG says that its new Viewty Smart is the world’s slimmest 8 megapixel camera phone.

Aside from the graphically lush “S-Class User Interface” that boldy took LG’s phone interfaces to places it had never been before, LG is heavily pushing a new “Intelligent Shot Mode” and more intelligent image processor, coupled with ISO 1600 sensitivity, 8 megapixels, 3-inch 480x800 resolution screen, HSDPA 7.2Mbps speeds, Wi-Fi, A-GPS and more as major stand-out features.

LG has flirted with 8 megapixel cameraphones before, with last year’s LG Renoir being similarly equipped, but the Intelligent Shot Mode is new to LG, with LG saying that it is a “camera phone first”.

Nathan Dunn, the General Manager of Telecommunications at LG Electronics Australia said: “LG believes the future of camera phones lies in providing smart camera technology that lets consumers utilize all the camera functions more conveniently while still ensuring picture perfect output. Combined with the intuitive S-Class User Interface, Viewty Smart leads the way for the next generation of camera phones.”

So, what specifically prompted LG to go all-out in delivering an intelligent shot mode it says is “rare” on high-end standalone digital cameras, let alone available on any other smartphone?

Well, LG says that it “conducted consumer preference surveys in fourteen countries including the U.S., U.K., France, Brazil, Russia, India and China to learn what consumers wanted to see in the next generation mobile device”, discovering that “one key finding” showed “users thought current camera phones were too complicated to operate.”

Naturally, as a consumer, one can tend to be surprised that it took a survey across 14 countries to figure this out, but solid data to back up hypotheses is never a bad thing.

LG says that its engineers “addressed this issue in the Viewty Smart with Intelligent Shot Mode, which analyzes the subject, background, and lighting conditions and compares the data against seven pre-programmed scenarios to take perfect pictures every time.

“This hassle-free mode completely eliminates the need to check settings before taking a photo. It even provides instantaneous feedback, showing exactly how the camera is analyzing a particular scene with real-time indicator bars.”

Even though true photo pros generally laugh at the small sensor size within the lens of a camera phone, LG insists that its 8 megapixels of photographic power are different, saying that the “Viewty Smart’s pictures are not just great for sharing online, but are even sharp enough for printing and framing”, although as noted, it will be very interesting to see what true photo professionals think when they get to review the Viewty Smart as a camera, and not a camera phone.

What else does the Intelligent Shot Mode offer, and what are some other specs?


Sadly, LG may well have made its best ever camera phone, but has only equipped it with an LED flash, instead of the much preferred Xenon variety, as seen on Sony CyberShot phones, Nokia’s N82 and regular digital cameras.

Again, LG insists this isn’t such a big issue thanks to the maximum ISO setting of 1600, allowing “shots previously considered too dim or dark can now be captured even without a flash.”

Higher ISO levels can introduce more “noise” into a photo, and isn’t a substitute for a real flash when taking “on the town” type photos, but it would certainly help deliver a lighter image than previously possible on earlier LG models, and is naturally augmented when using the aforementioned LED flash.

LG has also added “several new camera features including Multi-Face Detection and DVD-quality D1 video recording”, while carrying over previously available features such as “Touch Shot, Art Shot, Beauty Shot, Panorama Shot and Continuous Shot.”

The “DVD quality D1 video recording” is definitely welcome as it would presumably deliver even better video quality than earlier models, making the decision to film something that much easier, rather than forgoing video altogether for better quality photos.

The S-Class User Interface has also seen an update since its Arena incarnation, now tailored “around Viewty Smart’s camera features with an on-screen dial for instantly switching shot modes and a thumbnail viewer that shows recently taken photos without having to switch to the photo gallery.”

As you’d expect, photos can be uploaded to the Net directly from the phone, and can now be A-GPS geotagged so the “exact spot” a photo was taken can be explored at online mapping sites.

1.5GB of internal storage is included, with a MicroSD card slot capable of taking “up to” 32GB storage, although 32GB MicroSD cards are still due to be released onto the market, with 16GB the biggest option available thus far.

With 6.5 million original Viewty models sold, LG’s Nathan Dunn said that: “Viewty completely changed the way camera phones were viewed. People no longer had to suffer poor image quality for the convenience of using the cameras on their mobile phones.

“Viewty Smart will change perceptions again. It won’t be about having a camera phone that equals the quality of a standalone digital camera. It will be about having a smart camera phone that takes better pictures and is easier to use than a standalone digital camera.”

So, while we’re yet to personally see just how the Viewty Smart will live up to LG’s claims , it does sound like a very welcome upgrade in a sea of super cool competitors. Hopefully the Viewty Smart will also be able to take advantage of LG’s upcoming “Application Store” in the future, too.

Available through Telstra this month, and both Vodafone and 3 Mobile in August, the Viewty Smart will undoubtedly be made available on a range of plans over 24 months and will retail “outright” for AUD $899.

Visit LG’s mobile phone site for more details.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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